Oracle slashes workforce, say reports

Oracle made "major" cuts in its global workforce on Friday and more are expected to come, say multiple sources and news reports.

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Oracle made "major" cuts in its global workforce on Friday and more are expected to come, say multiple sources and news reports.

Sales staff and consultants working for Oracle in North America were hit hard, say sources, as well as employees who had joined Oracle recently through its acquisitions of Hyperion Solutions and BEA Systems.

The number of people let go on Friday is unclear. Tim Klasell, an analyst with Thomas Weisel Partners, told Computerworld he thought the layoffs were likely to be in the hundreds or low thousands, rather than the 8,000-figure buzzing about on some blogs and message boards.

Oracle employs 84,000 people globally. An 8,000-employee layoff would amount to about 10% of its workforce.

Based on Oracle's history of acquisitions and layoffs, as well as money the company has already publicly said it plans to spend this year on severance, it will likely keep trimming through Spring of 2009.

"I think they're doing this in waves," Klasell said. "It's not great for morale, but you want to make sure you don't cut into the meat."

One Oracle salesperson based in the US said they were called into a meeting Friday and told the news then. More cuts are likely to come, said the salesperson, who asked to remain anonymous.

"They're going to have to. They're not going to sell any [customer relationship management software] in these times," the worker said. "BEA was very bloated and they've got to prune a lot of those people out."

According to a December 22 filing to the SEC (see page 12), Oracle expects to eventually spend a total of US$148 million on severance packages for laid-off employees of BEA, which it bought in January 2008.

While trying to fight off Oracle, BEA changed the terms of its severance in late 2007 so that most employees would receive between 3 months and 12 months of pay and COBRA health insurance if they were laid-off within a year of an acquisition.

Oracle completed its $8.5-billion takeover of BEA on April 29 of last year.

Oracle has already spent $38 million on BEA severances, according to its 22 December filing, as it laid off 275 BEA employees in California , according to state records, and possibly more elsewhere.

Oracle has y et to file a notice with California's Employment Development Department regarding Friday's layoffs. Alerting the department with Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notifications (WARN) is required by California state law.

However, Oracle has a history of sending WARNs only after layoffs occur. When Oracle announced in January 2005 it would lay off more than 5,000 employees from the recently-acquired PeopleSoft, the state only received WARNs for about 900 workers two weeks after the layoffs occurred.

Oracle declined to comment. Message boards, blogs and even the microblogging service Twitter has been abuzz since Friday about the layoffs, which had been rumoured for the past two months.

For instance, a Twitter post on Friday apparently by a West Coast-based Oracle director, William Greene, wished "to those I've had the pleasure of working with that got laid off today at Oracle. Best of luck and thanks."

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